Syeda Soofia Joins Museum of Science & Industry as VP of HR

In recent weeks, three women have joined the staff of Chicago’s Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry (M.S.I.)  in medium-to-high level positions in the Human Resources (H.R.) department.  The M.S.I. announced on Monday, August 1, A.D. 2022 that Syeda Soofia would be heading the M.S.I.’s H.R. Department as Vice President of Human Resources and Chief of People and Culture.  The other two women to join the H.R. Department were identified as Saran S. and Johanna Muriel.

After teaching for two years at the high school level, Ms. Soofia spent the next twenty-five years in H.R. in various industries.  She earned her B.A. in English at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago in 1995, her Master’s Certificate in H.R. Management at North Park University in Chicago in 2001, and her Master’s in Business Administration (M.B.A.) at Wayne State University in Detroit in 2002.  In addition, she holds two certifications from the H.R. Certification Institute (H.R.C.I.®), as she is Professional in Human Resources (P.H.R.®) Certified and Senior Professional in Human Resources SPHR Certified.

Her first H.R. role was as Field H.R. Manager at N.O.R.C. (National Opinion Research Center) at The University of Chicago from 2002 to 2004.[1]  Next, she spent two years as Regional H.R. Manager at FedEx Kinko’s from May of 2004 to June of 2006.  Her next job took her to Boston as she served as Employee Relations Manager at Brigham and Women’s Hospital from June of 2006 to July of 2008.  For over five years, she served as Director, Human Resources, at Aetna/Coventry from July of 2008 to November of 2013.  She was Head of Human Resources, Americas, for Xchanging, an “outsourcing and offshoring” firm’s Chicago office, from November of 2013 to October of 2016.  Most recently, she served as Head of H.R. for the Dearborn Group, an H.C.S.C. (Health Care Service Corporation) company from October of 2016 to August of 2022.

According to the M.S.I., “In her role at Dearborn, she collaborated with every department to ensure the company’s greatest assets, its people were provided with what they needed to be successful.  It is people and purpose that inspires her to stay motivated.  Additionally, Soofia led the HR function for HCSC’s Pharmacy Division.”

“MSI has always been a part of my life, starting with many wonderful childhood visits I still cherish,” stated Ms. Soofia.  “I’m so honored to be part of this mission-driven institution with such deep roots in the city of Chicago and surrounding communities.”

Figure 1 Credit: Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This is Syeda Soofia, the new Vice President of Human Resources and Chief of People and Culture at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Saran S. has become H.R. Director.  A Chicago native, she received her bachelor’s degree at DePaul University in Chicago and her master’s degree in Webster University in Vienna.  Previously, she worked as a Labor Relations Manager at the charity Illinois Action for Children, and H.R. Director at The Chicago Faucet Company, and as a freelance human resources consultant.

Johanna (“Jo”) Muriel has become H.R. Projects and Communications Coordinator.  Ms. Muriel has a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies with a double minor in H.R. Development and Communications from.  She has a love for music and plays the acoustic guitar.  Her other interests include travel and watching true-crime documentaries.

The Museum of Science and Industry is located in Hyde Park on the South Side of Chicago.  The M.S.I. is housed in Palace of Fine Arts – the building erected as a temporary art museum for Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893), and which subsequently housed the Columbian Field Museum until March of 1920 when as The Field Museum of Natural History, it moved to its new home in Burnham Park.

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The façade is modeled on temples standing on the Acropolis of Athens.  Upon the exposition board naming him Director of Public Works for the World’s Columbian Exposition, on October 30, 1890, Daniel Hudson Burnham, Sr. (1846-1912) named his partner John Wellborn Root, Sr. (1850-1891) the supervising architect and the great landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead (1822-1903) the supervising landscape architect. Root died after he paid a visit to Jackson Park on a stormy night. Burnham replaced him with Charles B. Atwood (1849-1895) as Chief Architect of the World’s Columbian Exposition and Atwood personally designed the Illinois Central Railroad Station, the Peristyle of the Court of Honor, and the Palace of Fine Arts.[2] The neoclassical design Atwood developed for the Palace of Fine Arts combined Roman domes with Ionic Greek columns, statues, and frieze panels. 

            He borrowed the Central Pavilion’s north portico from a painting of a fanciful art museum by Paul-Albert Besnard (1849-1934) that had won the Prix de Rome. Atwood had two assistants. Alexandre Sandier had studied at the École des Beaux-Arts under Besnard.  Ernest R. Graham (1868-1936), coordinated much of Atwood’s work on-site, including aspects of the Palace of Fine Arts.  The Palace of Fine Arts (P.F.A.) held art treasures from around the world and to protect them at a time when many people could recall the Great Fire of 1871, unlike the other palaces of the White City, the P.F.A. had a brick substructure under its staff superstructure.[3]

            Philanthropist Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932), President of Sears, Roebuck & Company, founded the Museum of Science and Industry in 1926 through The Commercial Club of Chicago, of which he was a member.  Mr. Rosenwald wanted Chicago to have a large science and industrial museum modeled on the Deutsches Museum von Meisterwerken der Naturwissenschaft und Technik (German Museum of Masterpieces of Science and Technology) in Munich, Bavaria, Germany.[4]  [The Commercial Club had earlier sponsored Burnham’s Plan of Chicago (1909).[5] It also sponsored the Chicago Zoological Society, which founded the Brookfield Zoo in west suburban Brookfield, Illinois.] Rosenwald’s fellow trustees named the museum the Rosenwald Industrial Museum in his honor, but he was a modest man and asked them to remove his name.  In 1929, the trustees changed the name to the Museum of Science and Industry.

            Initially, the South Park Commission (S.P.C.) had wanted to tear down the Palace of Fine Arts after The Field Museum of Natural History vacated it in 1920, but sculptor Lorado Taft (1860-1936), an instructor at The Art Institute of Chicago, rallied groups in support of restoring the building. [The South Park District was one of twenty-two park districts in Chicago that merged in 1934 to form the Chicago Park District.]  In 1921, J.H. Wade conducted a technical survey of the building with the support of a committee of the Illinois branch of the American Institute of Architects (A.I.A.), which worked with the S.P.C. At the time, the interested parties estimated the cost of restoring the P.F.A. and providing heating and electrical lighting to be $1,600,000. The building itself was valued at $3,000,000 and it was doubtful it could be replicated in 1922 for less than $10,000,000. On Friday, June 9, A.D. 1922, when the A.I.A. held its convention in Chicago for the first time in fourteen years, they held a dinner banquet under the dome of Central Pavilion of the P.F.A. to draw attention to the sorry state of the building.

             Mrs. Albion Headburg (1878-1961) chaired the Art Committee of the Illinois Federation of Women’s Clubs, which raised $7,000 to restore a small part of the Palace of Fine Arts to show what it could look like. They changed the mind of the S.P.C., which asked voters to approve the sale of $5,000,000 in bonds to finance restoration of the P.F.A. to serve as a science museum, trade school, sculptural art museum, and convention center.  In 1925, Dr. Charles R. Richards, author of The Industrial Museum and Director of the American Association of Museums (now the American Alliance of Museums), attested to the suitability of the P.F.A. as the future home of a science museum.   

            The design of the restoration and reconstruction of Atwood’s staff superstructure and brick substructure fell to the architectural firm employed by the S.P.C.: Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White – principally to Alfred Phillips Shaw (1895-1970).[6] He also designed the Art Moderne interior. Upon the death of Messrs. Probst and White, another firm, Shaw, Naess, and Murphy, undertook completion of the new interior’s design, beginning in January of 1937.  [Shaw had broken off from Graham, Anderson, Probst and White.]  He also replaced Graham on the M.S.I.’s Board of Supervisors.  The façade and substructure underwent restoration and reconstruction between 1929 and 1931. The entry floor was raised to accommodate a ground floor.  When it became apparent $5,000,000 would be insufficient to restore the building, Mr. Rosenwald pledged to pay for completion of the project, in addition to his endowment pledge of $3,000,000.  It is important to remember this is the case, because once Rosenwald and his heirs agreed to finance completion of the construction work, there was no question that the science museum would have to share space with any other organizations within the P.F.A. (except on the museum’s terms). 

            The Museum of Science and Industry opened in three stages between 1933 and 1940.  The very first opening ceremony came on June 19, A.D. 1933, when the North & South Courts of the Central Pavilion were opened for the press, the Rosenwalds, Commercial Club members, the S.P.C., and Edward J. Kelly (1876-1950), Mayor of Chicago (1933-1947) and President of the South Park Board of Commissioners (1924-1933).  It opened to the public on July 1, A.D. 1933.  These events coincided with Chicago’s second World’s Fair, A Century of Progress International Exposition (1933-34), which opened on June 1, A.D. 1933. 

            Between 1938 and 1940, the Central Pavilion was closed to the public while the interior was installed. The West Pavilion opened on March 1, A.D. 1938.  During this period, the Museum Library and some exhibits were accessible in the West Pavilion.[7] There was a preview of the entire Museum of Science and Industry on April 14, A.D. 1939. On October 26, A.D. 1940, the Museum of Science and Industry finally fully opened to the public, after a press preview on October 24, A.D. 1940. 

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The M.S.I. announced on Thursday, October 3, A.D. 2019 that the Board of Trustees had voted to accept a $125,000,000 gift from the Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Fund.  M.S.I. executives and board members felt it would consequently be appropriate to change the Museum of Science and Industry’s name to the Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry.  A multi-billionaire, Mr. Griffin is the founder and Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) of Citadel, Inc., a hedge fund management company that was then headquartered in Chicago but is now headquartered in Miami.  His gift is the largest in the history of the science and technology museum, and one of the largest gifts to any cultural institution in Chicago. 

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Currently, the Museum of Science and Industry is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The address of the M.S.I. is 5700 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60637.  The Website is https://www.msichicago.org/ and the phone number is (773) 684-1414.

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ENDNOTES


[1] The National Opinion research Center was founded at the University of Denver in 1941 with financial backing from Marshall Field III (1893-1956) and moved to The University of Chicago campus in 1947. Technically, it is a separate organization.  Marshall Field III had substantial ties to Chicago as he was a grandson of Marshall Field I (1834-1906), the founder of Marshall Field & Company, which originally was both a retail and wholesale operation, and benefactor of The Field Museum of Natural History.  At that time, in 1941, Marshall Field III was a newspaper publisher who had founded the Chicago Sun (which evolved into the Chicago Sun-Times) and Parade magazine and had formerly been a banker, as he had already inherited a substantial sum of money.  However, in time he would become the primary beneficiary of his grandfather’s fortune, so he inherited a lot more money, as well as responsibility for the management of the company his grandfather had founded with partner Levi Leiter (1834-1904).  He founded Field Enterprises as a holding company to own and manage the newspaper and magazine, Marshall Field & Company, and the book publishing houses Simon & Schuster and Pocket Books, both of which he acquired in 1944.   In 1940, Marshall Field III also founded the Field Foundation.

[2] There are 19th Century sources that state the Palace of Fine Arts was designed by Root and Atwood, but Root’s Second Empire-style design work was not incorporated by Atwood. 

[3] The other palaces were made of wood or steel framing clad in a kind of plaster known as “staff.” Staff is a combination of plaster of paris, hemp fibers, and Portland cement.

[4] Please note that at the time Waldemar Kaempffert (1877-1956), the first Director of the Museum, began to bring Julius Rosenwald’s vision into reality, he translated the Deutsches Museum von Meisterwerken der Naturwissenschaft und Technik as “German Museum of Masterworks of Science and Technology” but today the institution calls itself the “German Museum of Masterpieces of Science and Technology” in the English-language version of its Website.

[5] In 1906-09, Burnham and assistant Edward H. Bennet drafted The Plan of Chicago with the financial support of Chicago’s Merchants Club, which merged with The Commercial Club of Chicago in 1907.  The report, published in 1909, circulated amongst Commercial Club members and public institutions.  The Chicago Common Council adopted it at the urging of Mayor Fred Busse (1866-1914).

[6] Other buildings designed by A.P. Shaw include the Merchandise Mart, the Civic Opera House, the Morton wing of The Art Institute of Chicago, the original McCormick Place, and the Continental Plaza Hotel.

[7] For most of the M.S.I.’s history, though, the Museum Library was on the balcony of the Central Pavilion’s South Court.  The Museum Library, then known as the Kresge Library, closed in 1996.  The Archives absorbed collections not donated to The Avery Coonley School in Downers Grove, Illinois.

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